The First Day of School

All these buses! At the time I was surrounded by buses, and kids, and kids, and buses. It seemed to be my every day life. Actually, it was. So I dreamed up a story, to be both drawn and written, for the benefit of children the world over.

Here it is. Settle in. Relax. Pull up your widdle banky, and enjoy…


It was the first day of school and the first kids waited patiently for the bus.

Even Richard, the ghost kidoodle, waited by his house for the bus to appear.

One by one, the summer-tired kidoodles stepped up into the bus and, as the Sun rose warmly behind them, bounced and jostled their way to a new school year.

They were quiet at first, but that wasn’t to last.

The bus was big and beautiful, and oh so ready for the new school year. Her name was Connie. And Clive, the driver was just as kind as ever. Earlier, in the yard where the bus lived, their first meeting of the year had been very special.

Oh, this was going to be a wonderful school year!

Now, Connie was a very special bus. She had all sorts of special gizmos which none of the other buses had. Let’s face it, she was a magic bus, and because of this she was full of the understanding and intuition and awareness that is reserved for only the very best of school buses.

Gradually, the kidoodles entered the bus and sat down for their first ride of the year. They were all quiet for a little while, and that was great, but soon they got used to the pitch and roll of the bus – and they started to talk to each other, and to get loud. All except little Jace, who was taking his first ever ride on the big yellow bus. Jace was one nervous little kidoodle.

It wasn’t long, of course, before all the little kidoodles forgot where they were. Clive even pulled over to to the side of the road once and watched them all in his big rear-view mirror. But they didn’t stop their yakking. They didn’t even notice they’d stopped!

Clive and Connie figured now was as good a time as any. Best to sort these things out early in the year, he thought, and as the kidoodles fooled and played and fiddled and romped and scuffled and rampaged, Clive and Connie got themselves ready. They knew how this went. With kids it always started off in fun, but sooner or later someone wound up crying, and feelings were hurt. Someone always says something, or throws something, or someone’s lunch gets spilled, the laughter turns to tears and before you know it, the kidoodles are mad at each other.

And sure enough that’s what happened. Oh, Clive tried hard to get their attention so that they’d know they were doing it wrong. But they weren’t looking, and they certainly weren’t listening.

And so they started arguing with each other, staring and glaring, and shouting and hollering and yelling. Fingers started pointing, and words were thrown, little hearts hardened and suddenly there was no more choice.

Little Jace, sitting there on his first ever bus ride, looked so scared as he watched this commotion – there was so much about life he still did not understand! But, the combatants still wouldn’t back down.

And that’s when it began. First a long, low rumble, then a sound like metal scraping on metal – a long, high squeal of steel – of emotion it would even seem – from somewhere deep within the bus.

Pascal – a third year boy – knew that sound.

“Uh-oh,” he said, looking around, and soon everyone stopped what they were doing to try to figure out what was going on.

Clive put both hands on the wheel, held his breath, and closed his eyes.

“Be gentle, Connie,” he muttered. “It’s only the first day.”

Connie rumbled and shook, she shook and she rumbled – and oh boy did she rumble! She rumbled low, then lower, then even lower yet – almost as if she was boiling inside! It’s a special time when the bus gets mad.

Clive heard Michael say, from the back of the bus, “Uh, guys, I think we’d better hold on now.” Like Pascal, he had clearly been through this before.

All the kidoodles grew quiet. Little hands gripped the edges of seats and nervousness rippled through the bus as Connie’s trembling and rumbling grew more and more intense.

“I don’t like this!” whined little Maisie, looking all around her.

“Me neither, nuh-uh,” agreed Rufus, one of the tiniest kidoodles.

“Just hold on,” said Michael – “and hold on hard!”

And he was right, for just at that moment the shaking grew stronger yet, and the bus started to move.

“This isn’t me, guys,” hollered Clive, “this is Connie, taking charge!”

A sudden surge of moaning and groaning passed amongst the passengers as the front wheels lifted slowly off the ground.

“What’s happening!?” cried Lucy. “I’m scared!”

“We’re taking off!” hollered Pedro.

“Well, it’s your fault!” replied Juan, his brother.

“Is not!”

“Is too!”

The front of the bus lurched suddenly forward and up, and a high metallic shriek grew from under the hood.

“We’re floating!” hollered Emily.

“We’re flying!” bellowed Leah.

And flying they were. Up and up, into the sky, toward the high, thin clouds of early morning. They gathered speed, grew faster and faster, and when the kidoodles finally found the strength to look outside they saw that everything below had gotten so very, very small! The houses, the cars, the people, had all fallen away to little dots on the ground, and it wasn’t long before they were completely left behind.

And that’s when the kidoodles started to realize what was going on.

As the temperature in the bus rose, Clive knew what was what. Connie the bus didn’t like it when the kidoodles argued, and darn it, sometimes there were lessons to learn and no one but Connie could teach them.

“You’re ready for this, are you, Connie?” he asked the big bus. She responded with a low, satisfied growl, and Clive knew she was.

So he and the kidoodles all pressed back in their seats as the bus roared skyward. They were all looking outside now. Most were scared, but a few of the older kidoodles looked like they might even be having fun!

“Bus driver, did my mom put you up to this?” hollered Clarissa from her assigned seat, holding on to her little teddy bear. She had a wry grin on her face.

“It’s got nothing to do with me, sweetheart!” cried Clive, lifting his hands off the now useless steering wheel. “This is all Connie.”

“Why’s she doing this then?” queried Michael. He did not sound amused.

“I think, if you look very honestly at yourselves,” said Clive, “you’ll figure out exactly why this is happening.”

“I think I know,” said Nathan, who liked to think he knew everything. “Hey, I can see my house!”

“The sky up here is really dark!” cried Jessica, excitedly looking out.

“It sure is,” agreed Gabby. “And it’s getting darker,” and a chorus of kidoodles agreed that they had noticed this too.

“It’s very pretty,” said little Lexie.

“We’re pretty high up,” added Jace, now looking around.

“Hey, there’s an airplane!” hollered Sophia, pointing,

All the kidoodles craned their necks up to try to see.

“I don’t see one,” grumped Marcos, but he was looking up, and Sophia was pointing the other way.

“It’s down there – behind us,” she said, rolling her eyes.

“It’s really getting dark now!” said Ryleigh.

“I’m floating!” yelped Emily!

“Hey, I’m floating too!” cried Leah.

“And me!”

“And me!”

“We’re all floating now!”

As they all started lifting gently off their seats and floating into the air, all their little voices rose up too, and still Connie the magic bus just flew and flew and flew. Way up high, she flew, through and past the earthbound blue, into the wider reach of space – the silent reach of space, for just at that moment Connie’s engine cut out and as all the little kidoodles floated toward the roof of the bus, everything suddenly turned quiet.

“I’ve never been up this high before,” said Anna, in the big, quiet bus. “I’m afraid.” She was upside-down, clinging to her seat with all the strength in her little fingers, the rest of her floating up into the air.

“Me too,” said Pedro, gripping the back of his seat and kneeling down, looking out of the window.”

Look at the stars!” breathed Anthony. “So beautiful.”

“Look at the Earth!” cried Chelvy, and everyone did, pasting their little faces to the windows to look at the Earth, far, far below.

“Wow, it’s big,” said Miguel, slack-jawed.

“I can see my house!” someone hollered.

“You can not,” cried someone else.

Everyone went quiet, and they stayed quiet for several minutes, in absolute awe of the beauty and enormity of space. Then, suddenly, the silence was broken. It was Pedro.

“Hey! Quit stepping on me!”

“Get your stupid foot out of my way!” yelled his twin brother Juan.

“I’ll put my foot wherever I want to!”

“Oh yah?”

Yah!”

And just like that, the glorious majesty, the great serenity of the enormous sphere beneath them, the perfect wonder of the planet, Earth, was forgotten.

“Boys, boys, try to get along now,” said Clive. “Have you forgotten where we are?”

“I don’t care! He does this all the time! He’s always putting his big, fat foot where mine is, and using my stuff, and jumping line for the bathroom, and taking my potato and…”

“I never take your potato – I take my potato. And ask mom – it’s not your potato, it’s our potato! Ours! And I don’t care where we are, that will always be true!”

“Boys, boys, boys…” Clive tried again to interject. Ordinarily, on the ground, he would park the bus for this kind of thing, get out of his seat, and mediate. But here in space, where could he park?

“Sometimes he makes me sooooo mad!” seethed Pedro.

“Well, I don’t like him, and I wish he wasn’t my brother any more!” Juan folded his little arms angrily across his chest.

“Oh yah?”

Yah!

There was a brief moment of silence, but then Connie the bus grumbled once again back to life. A deep, rumbling, angry roar grew from her very belly and in a moment she lurched forward and was moving again.

“Uh-oh.” said Pascal, turning to try to sit in his seat. “Now you’ve gone and done it.”

Clive reached above his head, then, and flipped the switch – the one installed way up high by the roof. The red switch. The small red switch with the red covering on it and the large white letters around it. The special switch that no one knew about but him. And Connie.

Nothing happened right away. But both bus and driver knew it would, and judging from the kidoodles’ behaviour behind him, they knew too that something was going to happen.

It was just a matter of time.


Meanwhile, back at the school, just as the Sun started rising behind her, Vice Principal Señora C was checking her watch.

All the other kidoodles were already in class, but where was Bus 293?


The bus lurched forward and started soaring again, sweeping left and swooping right. All the little kidoodles did what they could to hold on, but it was difficult.

One by one they reached out their hands to hold on to each other. One by one they held fast and would not let go, so that soon all the kidoodles were holding hands. All except for little Juan and Pedro, who were still frowningly scowling at each other.

“Take his hand, Pedro!” hollered Pascal.

“No!” cried the little boy.

“Juan, grab hold!” ordered Alyx, one of the smallest but fiercest of the bus’s passengers.

“I don’t want to!”

“You have to!” they all shouted. “Now!”

But the brothers were so mad at each other that they just wouldn’t – couldn’t – hold hands, even if it put themselves and all their little friends in danger.

Meanwhile, Connie just kept getting more and more upset. She swooped left, then right. She soared up, and dove down. She lurched, heaved, groaned, grumbled, grumped and skidded sweepingly both left and right, high in the big, beautiful black of space, but still the brothers would not hold hands.

Suddenly, the front door opened, and Clive flipped the OXYGEN switch on his panel.

“Argh!” cried Pedro. “I’m being sucked toward the door!”

“Hold my hand, Pedro! Quick!” cried Pascal.

“I can’t!”

He was indeed being sucked away from the group and toward the front door. He tried to grab each seat as he passed, but he couldn’t get a grip, and in only moments he was passing his brother, looking into his eyes as the vacuum of space was starting to take hold.

‘Help me, Juan!” he begged. “Please!

Juan held firm to the nearest seat. He looked at Pedro. He was still mad at him, but with that look in his eyes something triggered inside him, and he realized that even though he was angry he actually kind of liked having a brother. In a flash he recalled all the times they’d just sat and talked, finished each others’ sentences and laughed about it. Then he remembered all the times that Pedro had stood up for him in the playground, or steadied him while they were riding their bikes, and from there it was the work of only a moment for him to decide that yes, absolutely, he needed to do something to save his little brother.

“I’m not your little brother!” cried Pedro, who, it would seem, had somehow heard his brother’s thoughts.

“Yes, you are, I was born ten minutes before you, so…”

“Okay, okay, fine. But help me!”

Just then Pedro’s grip on the last seat loosened.

“Help me, please!” he hollered. He was scared now, and the wide-open door was looking really, really big, and just as Pedro slipped toward that door, Juan sprang into action. He dove headlong toward the first row of seats, past the bus driver’s outstretched hand, and grabbed hold of the handrail. Then he lunged toward his brother and reached out. The force of the vacuum of space tried to take them both, but he held tight to the hand rail and would not let his brother go. Never again would he let his brother go.

Auggghh!” cried Pedro. He was scared – very scared – but he felt okay now because he had his brother’s hand in his and somehow he knew he was going to be alright. As mad as he had been, he knew in his heart that he could rely on him, no matter what.

Just then, Juan felt other hands behind him. Daisy was holding him from behind, wrapping her arms around his waist so he could let go of the hand rail and use both of his hands to grab hold of Pedro. Somehow Juan knew that his friends were keeping him safe, so he held fast to Pedro and slowly pulled his brother back into the bus.

They slipped back inside, and just as they cleared the doorway, the doors magically snapped shut and the tired little kidoodles floated back up safely inside.

Juan and Pedro hugged each other and cried.

“I’m sorry, Pedro, I shouldn’t have been so mean.”

“Well, I’m sorrier,” blubbed Pedro. “You can put your foot wherever you like.”

“And you can have my potato any time!”

All their little kidoodle friends were smiling at this wonderful development, and as Connie the bus settled back down again and stopped rumbling and grumbling and soaring all over the place, Clive the driver somehow managed to conceal a little smile as he flipped the red overhead ADVENTURE TIME switch to OFF.

He looked down toward the earth and took the wheel.

Yup, he thought. It’s time to get these little kidoodles to school.

All calm now, the kidoodles floated about, talking quietly to each other about what they’d just been through. At the same time they took the opportunity to look outside – at space, at the moon, and at the Earth.

Maisy saw Clive the driver lean forward and talk to the dashboard for a moment before putting both hands firmly on the wheel. Then she and all the kidoodles relaxed as the bus rolled slowly and gently to the left. She looked out the window as the earth rose up toward them.

“Wow,” said Michael from the back of the bus.

“That’s awesome!” agreed Maisy.

“That one’s Africa,” said Leah, pointing. “And there’s Spain!” Leah was good at geography.

“And look over there!” added Pedro, with a giggle. “We’re not alone!

They all looked outside as a little space craft floated by. All the little kidoodles watched in awe as the craft hove into view and four startled space KerDoodles stared back at them.

“Their school bus is a very strange shape,” said Gabby with a giggle, and they all watched as it slid slowly away behind them.

Just then Clive’s radio crackled to life. He picked up the mike and exchanged a few words with the dispatcher.

“Ok kids,” he said, “it’s time to head to school. We’re the last ones to arrive. Now, everybody hold on!”

Connie the bus picked up speed as she rolled further left and pointed herself back toward home. It became quite loud inside, and there was a faint red glow around them as they headed back down to the big blue planet, to their country, their neighbourhood, and their school. The deep, deep black of space turned gradually blue again, first dark, then really, really bright. Most of the kidoodles covered their eyes when it was at its brightest, but then in only a few moments they were surrounded by a grey-white mist of clouds which made the windows wet. Then suddenly they saw they were pointed at the very same road from which they had taken off.

The ground rose up toward them, but no one was scared. Connie raised her nose to the sky and seemed to be feeling around with her hind end for the ground. All the kidoodles watched their progress through the windows. Then at last there was a bump, a clunk, a bump-a-clunk-a-lunk, and a whine of spinning tires as Connie resumed her regular road-bound duties.

“There’s the school!” hollered Pascal.

“There’s Señora C!” added Daisy as the bus slowed to its regular crawl.

After a minute Connie pulled up to the school and Clive flipped the switch to open the doors.

“Ok kids, have a great day. I hope you learned something this morning.”

“Sure did,” said Juan as he turned to go down the stairs. “I learned to always share my potato.”

Señora C was greeting the kidoodles as they got off the bus.

“Good morning, children. You’re a little late. Is everything okay?”

“Sure is, Señora,” said Daisy. “We had an adventure!”

“Oh?” she said. “What kind of adventure?” She looked over toward Clive. Clive rolled his eyes.

“Oh, you know…” he said. “Traffic.”

A couple of kidoodles giggled, and went into the school

One by one the kidoodles left the bus. Señora C checked off her clipboard then waved at Clive. He got up and checked all the seats for sleepers – as if anyone could have slept through this morning’s adventure! – then sat down in his seat and sighed.

“That was fun, Connie,” he said with a smile. “I never get tired of that.”

And Connie, with a delightful, self satisfied harrumph, revved her happy motor before Clive took the wheel and guided them both back to the yard.